Saturday, May 01, 2010

The laptop

This is one of the things I've been busy dealing with, which I knew would take some space and distance to write about, without wanting to reach out and ring the necks of some far-away "customer service" people.

When I started telecommuting, my boss bought me a nice, new IBM Thinkpad laptop. It had a two year warranty, which I used several times. I can't even remember now what for. A few times, it was keyboard buttons or the left mouse (probably from overuse!). One time, I got into a dispute with them because there was a very small display problem (one or two pixels not lit) and they didn't want to fix it, arguing that I probably broke it in some "voiding the warranty way". I didn't hat time,(ahem, they never asked about the keyboard keys that a toddler pulled off!) and finally got someone to agree to take it apart, where they determined that specific damage could not have been caused by an accident, it was a faulty display. So, they fixed it.

After the two years was up, it was working fine, but not covered under warranty anymore so hence, not reliable. I asked my boss for a new one. This time, I got a Sony Vaio, which I found on clearance at the bookstore for $925.  We pay for it with a purchase order (these two facts will become more important later.)  I wanted a nice display so I could have many windows open at once, and Sony is supposed to have excellent graphics/display quality. For an extra $169, we got the 3 year "accidental insurance" so that supposedly, everything was covered, so I wouldn't even have to deal with them questioning repairs and how they happened, they would just fix it.

So about 6 months in, the little plastic piece by the power supply cracked. In other words, the round button on the side that you push to turn it off and on, was surrounded by a gray plastic tube.  That plastic tube cracked.  Now, I know how it happened, but it doesn't matter.  The thing juts out and gets caught on my zipper every time I am putting it inside my laptop bag, and all of that wear and tear eventually broke it.  Anyway, they repaired it and the left mouse, which was sticking by then.   They sent it back with a nice note about how they hoped I had been satisfied with the Sony Service, and a free cleaning cloth. 

Fastword to March, when the EXACT same piece breaks agin.  I delay sending it in, because it still works,  it is just hanging on by a thread, and I have deadlines and web pages to get up, can't be without it for a week or I won't be paid that week.  Eventually, though, it severs one of now-exposed wires.  So now the laptop will not charge a battery, however, it runs just fine from the battery power (until, of course, the battery gives out and now there's no place to charge it).  So, I call Sony again to send me a box to ship it off for repairs.

This time, they will not even send the box, and they inform me that there is a lifetime allowance of the value of the laptop, and that since I have used $750 in repairs the first time, there is only $175 left.  WHAT? !  $750 TO REPAIR A BROKEN PLASTIC PIECE AND SWAP OUT A MOUSE?!  This is the first I have heard of this exhorbitant supposed cost.  My two points are that 1) Since I've had this exact same problem  before, perhaps the repair was faulty if it only lasted 6 months and 2) How do they know the repair cost will exceed $175 without even looking at it?

Their response was that they contract out to a repair company who does all of their hardware repairs for a flat $750 fee.  You can imagine my outrage and questioning of this fee.  If I had only broken the space bar, as I did with the ThinkPad, would that have cost $750?  Yes.  And then I would have used up the entire allowance for the 3 years in one repair.  Without any knowledge that they would later deny subsequent repair claims. 

I could go on here about the subsequent efforts to call them back, get a supervisor on the phone, be put on hold, etc. Bottom line, they are refusing any kind of negotiation, and are only going to give my boss a check for $175, the amount of money left in their "allowance", and closing out their further obligations to us, leaving us with a broken laptop. 

I may edit this post later and include the legal clause about the "up to the limit of the laptop minus the lifetime value of any repairs" which seems so vague and misleading, but is what they are going by. 

Anyway, at this point I am using the old workhorse ThinkPad.  We are looking for a local electronics repair place to sodder the wire back together--I'm confident it will cost far less than $750! In talking with friends and the computer support guys in our office, the reputation seems to be that Dell has good customer service, and that Sonys are known to be overpriced pieces of crap.   But I warn all of you away from Sony Vaios!

Also, had I only purchased this with my Visa Platinum or AmEx, I could have reaped the warranty extension benefits.  But we did a purchase order because we didn't think we had to worry about that, we thought we had 3 years of "anything" warranty.  So much for that!